At ten o’clock, my writing is interrupted when the young man with the clipboard pulls into the parking lot. He always parks in the same spot, the one next to mine. I’ve seen him here more than a few times. His routine is the same. He opens the trunk of his blue Ford Focus, extracts a red backpack, and straps it on over his shoulders. He tosses his Birkenstocks into the trunk and slams the lid. Then he checks that his paper is firmly clipped to the clipboard. After stretching his bulging biceps and calf muscles, he jogs across the sand toward the surf. At the water’s edge, the man turns, walks north, then stops to look at the lake. He jots something down. I watch him walk, stop, write until he becomes a distant speck on the shore. His clipboard and backpack are as much a mystery to me as the origin of the Great Pyramids. About an hour later, he returns with sand-caked feet and the legs of his cargo shorts soaking wet. I notice that the paper on his clipboard is cluttered with sketches and scribbles. He dries his feet with a striped towel and puts on his sandals. Then he gives the lake a long, wistful look and drives away.
A boy plays on the edge of the beach, a toddler, two maybe three years old. His mother calls him Jonah. A fitting name, I think, for a small boy playing near such a large body of water. To Jonah Lake Michigan must seem like the sea. Barefoot, he trudges through the sand carrying a yellow plastic pail. His mother waits while Jonah crouches to inspect a seagull feather. A white baseball cap covers his shaggy, blond hair. His preppy, green polo shirt and khaki beachcombers are damp and encrusted with sand. The rumble of a tractor pulling a beach rake catches Jonah’s attention. He stands on chubby legs, watching, mesmerized, as seagulls scatter in all directions to escape the angry blades. Jonah’s mother seizes the chance to brush the sand from the seat of his pants.
Near where I’m parked, an older couple, likely retired, unloads two folded beach chairs from their silver Malibu. She wears a floppy, pink hat. His bald head is bare. He carries both chairs under one arm and links his other arm with hers. Her gait is slow, almost a shuffle. They plod through the sand to a spot midway between the parking lot and the shoreline. He sets up the chairs. Then they sit, holding hands, watching a speedboat make waves that rhythmically wash up on the shore.
Today, there is a hint of autumn in the air. I roll my window up halfway as a rogue northeast wind whips across the lake and over the sandy beach. Whitecaps form on the quiet water, and the gulls move away from the surf.
The older couple came prepared. They cover up with blankets in their chairs. Jonah’s mother drags him from the sand. “No!” he protests, pulling hard against her grip. He points toward the water. “No!” he cries. “Again! Again!“
I hear you, Jonah. Just like you, I want to soak up all the sunshine, surf, and fresh air that I can. Fall will come soon, followed by winter. You sense it in the wind, and so do I. But, it must happen, Jonah. It says so in the Word of God:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)
…and, yes, Jonah, a time to leave the beach for a season or two.
But don’t worry. The wind doesn’t come like a thief to steal the promise that you will once again play in the sand and splash in the water. How do I know? Because God says so: As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat; winter and summer, day and night.
So, mind your mother, and put away your pail. Think about pumpkins and snowmen and hot-chocolate bedtime stories. To everything, Jonah, there is a season. Summer will come again.
Dear Heavenly Father, Instead of mourning the passing of a season, help us to laugh and dance to celebrate the next.